Local opera companies both doing Puccini on the same night. What are the odds?
That’s the plaintive cry coming from a chorus of local opera fans. Reason? Out of 365 days in the year, the two local opera organizations — Sabatino Vacca’s Southern Ontario Lyric Opera and Boris Brott’s BrottOpera — are holding their performances on the same day, Saturday, Sept. 16, and at the same time, 7:30 p.m.
And what’s more, they’re both doing something by Giacomo Puccini!
SOLO is staging “La Bohème” at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, 440 Locust St., Burlington.
BrottOpera is holding a PopOpera concert entitled “Passionate Puccini,” a program of bits and bites from seven Puccini operas with American soprano Mary Dunleavy, Canadian tenor Luc Robert and Stratford-based baritone James Westman in FirstOntario Concert Hall.
“Yeah, that’s unfortunate,” said Vacca, speaking about the conflict of dates from this Cambridge home.
“Oh gosh, we booked the date already a year ago. We conflicted with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra dates in the past. So I made sure we weren’t conflicting with the HPO (they open their season in FO Concert Hall on Sept. 23). And it’s a bit of an early start. The BPAC is doing their Culture Days that last weekend (in September). So, we couldn’t book it in that week.”
Back in March, SOLO mounted Puccini’s “Tosca.” So why Puccini to kick off their third season?
“We just thought it would be a great one to start the season with,” said Vacca.
“It’s probably one of the top two popular operas. It’s been a while since it’s been done in the area.”
Vacca is right on his last two points. In a 365-day period beginning on Aug. 31, “La Bohème” will receive 289 performances in 47 productions in 43 cities from Victoria to Burlington to Amsterdam to Tel Aviv.
It was last staged in the area in 2010 by Opera Hamilton.
And speaking of Opera Hamilton, perhaps some fans will recall that company’s “Bohème,” staged in Hamilton Place in October 2002, in which the action was moved forward to circa-1944 occupied Paris.
“We’re keeping it a little bit on the traditional side,” said Vacca, who incidentally was OH’s rehearsal pianist for many years and worked on that 2002 Bohème.
“Sets and costumes will reflect Paris of the 1830s. We did talk about an updated version at a board level, but we just sort of felt that for our audience right now and for the company where we are right now, let’s sort of keep it safe and traditional.”
“La Bohème” revolves around the tribulations of a group of young bohemians in the Latin Quarter.
SOLO’s all-Canuck cast includes Natalya Gennadi Matyusheva making her role debut as the fragile seamstress Mimì, Michael Marino as the poet Rodolfo, plus Diego Catalá as the painter Marcello opposite Sara Papini as his love interest, Musetta.
The philosopher Colline is being sung by Dylan Wright and Burlington’s Peter Bass will sing Schaunard, a musician.
Austin Larusson will be heard in two roles, the landlord Benoit and Alcindoro, a state councillor.
SOLO chorus member John Darrigo sings Parpignol, the toy vendor. Vacca will be in the BPAC pit conducting a pickup orchestra of 32 musicians culled from the 905 area. The chorus includes 35 adults and 10 children. The set design is by Jane Coryell a friend of the stage director, Lesley Andrew.
For those interested in learning more about “Bohème,” Vacca will discuss the opera on Wednesday at 3 p.m. in the Burlington Public Library, 2331 New St., Burlington.
A pre-performance talk on “Bohème” will be given at 6:45 p.m. on Sept. 16 in the BPAC’s lobby.
A silent auction starting at 6:30 p.m. will include a pair of WestJet tickets.